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To the UN, from Women Making a Difference

About the author
Rosemary Bechler is main site Editor of openDemocracy.

32 women who have fought against violent conflict from Cambodia to Sierra Leone, have come together in our Women Making a Difference blog over the last month to ask: How does Security Council Resolution 1325 on women peace and security affect us? Has it made any difference and what difference could it make? They have been speaking in a personal capacity, drawing on their personal experience, and that of organisations to which they belong.

Now, as women delegated from around the world to lobby for the full implementation of UN SCR 1325 meet in New York, our bloggers are sending their message to the United Nations and European Union. There has been consensus on some issues, though not on others, and a strong desire on all sides to communicate with the wider world. This message summarises the ideas and concerns they have shared, and gives a few direct comments from the blog. On the eve of 1325’s fifth anniversary, we hope it will contribute to a renewal of word and deed.

1. UN SCR 1325 needs to be better known and better understood
‘1325 is a tool to give our work added force and impact, not a replacement for that work. This is more effective than just sharing the stories because 1325 is an international law obligation and we know that sometimes it is useful to speak the language of governments to make them sit up and take notice…what is important is that we find ways to make the resolution meaningful… Yes it is all in UN language but we can change that…’ Sam Cook

2. UN SCR 1325 needs to be better enforced
‘The challenge we face now is how do we hold governments and the UN accountable – hold their feet to the proverbial fire – in a way that combines the strength of different approaches? Most important of all, we need to keep engaging and combining the call for change through support and collaboration with insiders and outsiders...’ Sanam Anderlini

3. The participation/representation of women must go beyond numbers
Too often, after the elections, women are sent straight back to ‘where their voices and decisions do not count. A few women elected as a show-case is not enough.’ Mu Sochua

4. Our expertise must extend beyond women to gender
‘I think I went very strong on promoting women's space when I was first minister of women's affairs and it was my deputy who told me, taught me, to include men.’ Mu Sochua
‘The challenge is to make difference – in this case, the difference women make - something that is safe to imagine and to live.’ Cindy Weber

5. ‘How do you change attitudes in your society?’ We need to exchange notes …
Bloggers have found all sorts of different approaches that make change possible. Visaka’s workshops about 1325 across rural Sri Lanka have been one example of how to ‘work very hard to change the attitudes of our respective societies – the main obstacle to the implementation of 1325.’ Visaka Dharmadasa
‘Amongst the diversity of views, we have women who do wish to develop resistance using the parameters of their understanding of Islam, while others, who come from a very secular view point wish to do so from their own particular stance. One challenge is how to build up a coalition which respects this diversity and values the strength of collaborative working to achieve good outcomes for all.’ Farkhanda Chaudry

6. International aid and intervention – what not to do
‘It is possible to do more damage than good... Poorly designed development programs could generate a backlash and could make things worse for women. There are signs of this for some women in Afghanistan…’ Lina Abifareh
‘International money must go into helping the people directly and allowing them to steer the process of recovery and reconstruction – not into lining the multinationals’ pockets.’ Maura Stephens

7. We need local credibility
‘Another important facet of the credibility criteria has to do with how grounded we are in the realities in which we work; how does a universal manifesto such as 1325 translate into our individual contexts?’ Anita Mir

8. Making democracy work
‘Democracy as promoted by the west, meaning elections every few years, is not what we mean. We are talking about democracy at every level from family, to workplace, to international bodies, with the right to information, transparency and accountability at the core – sustainable democracy…’ Helen O’Connell

9. How to cope with vulnerability and combat victimisation
‘Women are on the disadvantaged side of militarized society… In militarized society you have the elevation, adulation and privilege of the male protector…’ Galia Golan

10. How to defend women’s human rights
‘Women's rights are human rights! In some of our conflict situations where there is a high level of bribery and corruption, patriarchal dominance, over-emphasis on cultural values and norms that do not protect women, these all lead to the tendency to consider that human rights are for men only.’ Kemi Ogunsanya

11. Towards a ‘bloodless knowledge revolution’
‘I ask myself, if women owned half the media in the world, what stories would we be telling and how these would be educational and empowering to women. I have seen and continue to see women's columns of major newspapers still profiling women in a stereotypical way, functioning as if there's no Gender Commission, UNIFEM, etc. Media for me is a tool that we need to advance our cause.’ Boitumelo Mofokeng

Read in more detail about:

UN SCR 1325 needing to be better known, better understood and better enforced; the participation/representation of women going beyond numbers

Expertise extending beyond women to gender; changing attitudes in your society; international aid and intervention – what not to do; local credibility

How democracy can be made to work; how to cope with vulnerability and combat victimisation; how to defend women’s human rights; towards a ‘bloodless knowledge revolution’

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